‘Pim’ weight

The ‘Pim’ weight is a type of ancient weight used in the Land of Israel during the Iron Age (12th Century BCE-586 BCE). The ‘Pim’ weight did not have a single, unified denomination, perhaps because it represented 2/3 of the weight of the ‘Shekel’ weight, and there were a few types of ‘Shekel’ weights. Typically the ‘Pim’ weight was somewhere between 7.18 grams and 8.13 grams. Before the Persian period (539-332 BCE) coins were not used as a form of payment, and so weights were used to measure the amount of silver (and occasionally also gold) needed for payment.

Pim weight
By User:Funhistory – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24528458

This weight was first discovered by the American researcher George Barton who bought such a weight from an antiquities merchant during a stay in Jerusalem. He had difficulty reading the word inscribed upon the weight and was unsure whether it should be read as ‘GRH’ or ‘[L]PhI’. Eventually another such weight was discovered by the Irish researcher Robert Macalister during his excavations at Tel Gezer. This time, Macalister was able to identify the word ‘PIM’. Following this discovery, several scholars claimed that the word came from the Hebrew word ‘peh’ (mouth) which can also be understood as ‘one-third’ and ‘Pim’, being the plural of ‘peh’, may be understood as ‘two-thirds’. A certain basis for this suggestion can be found in Zechariah 13:8.

The word ‘Pim’ itself appears only one time in the Bible, in 1 Samuel 13:21, where it is stated: “The charge for sharpening was a pim for plowshares, mattocks, three-pronged forks, and axes, and for setting the goads.” Prior to the discovery of the ‘Pim’ weight, commentators met with difficulty in understanding this word. Today it is understood as referring to the weight of the quantity of silver the Israelites had to pay the Philistines for sharpening their work tools. Some suggest in light of this verse that the ‘Pim’ was originally a Philistine weight measurement which later found its way into the Israelite/Judahite weight system.


R. Kletter, ‘’Four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me?’ (Genesis 23:15): Weights and Weighing in Eretz Israel in Antiquity’, in: O. Ramon et al (eds.), Measuring and Weighing in Ancient Times (Catalogue 17), Haifa 2001, pp. 1-7 [Hebrew]

W. R. Lane, ‘Newly Recognized Occurrences of the Weight-Name PYM’, BASOR 164 (1961), pp. 21-23

R. A. S Macalister, ‘Fifteenth Quarterly Report on the Excavation of Gezer’, PEFQS 39 (1907), pp. 254-268

R. Y. B. Scott, ‘Weights and Measures of the Bible’, The Biblical Archaeologist 22 (1959), pp. 21-40